SMACNA contractor Charles Graves, president of Graves Sheet Metal in Kokomo, Indiana, has been doing industrial work in the automotive industry for decades. He was excited about attending the Industrial Contractors Forum “Industrial Ventilation System Design and Performance Including a Focus on the Automotive Industry,” during SMACNA’s Annual Convention in San Diego.
“The industrial forum is a great place to learn about common design principles that contractors routinely encounter when designing industrial ventilation systems,” said Graves, who brought two new designers from his company with him. “The presenters did an excellent job of keeping it simple for the newer audience members yet providing enough detail to inform and even spark an alternative viewpoint from the veterans.”
Dale Price, president of M&P Air Components Inc. in Southern California, discussed the importance of precise industrial ventilation systems design, and Robert Shearer, president of KBD Technic in Cincinnati, Ohio, covered industrial design specifics unique to the automotive industry.
Price talked about the critical factors affecting industrial ventilation system design and performance, such as the relative degree of capital costs and return on investment (ROI), energy efficiency, and important issues like static pressure, airflow, blast gate, and velocity.
“An understanding of the purpose of the individual ventilation system allows you to prioritize the allocation of appropriate resources and investment in design, procurement, and fabrication levels,” Price noted.
“Manufacturing process controls have a direct impact on production and loss of productivity,” he continued. “When ROI can be directly measured, it is easier to justify the higher allocation of capital resources for ventilation design, procurement, and fabrication.” Price has years of experience providing technical support, equipment, and training for industrial plant ventilation and process air handling applications.
System balancing, either by blast gate or design, is critical to a properly functioning industrial ventilation system, he said, as well as airflow and velocity, which must be calculated correctly.
He also explained the principles of fluid dynamics related to air flow. In the audience, Graves noted one of his young designers was particularly impressed with Price's discussion about static pressure laws.
“The presentations offered significant knowledge for young project managers to consider when selling potential projects,” Graves said. “Concepts like identifying capital costs, calculating simple return on investments, and offering energy efficiency equipment to better solve the owner's circumstances.”
Automotive Industry has Unique Ventilation Needs
Robert Shearer also helped participants prepare for success in industrial ventilation design in the automotive market, noting that it offers a variety of opportunities for ventilation design projects, including for pollution control and indoor air quality.
Shearer shared examples of automotive industry ventilation systems projects where he worked as a consultant. For example, he designed an oil mist collection system at an automotive plant in upstate New York and an exhaust system for a weld booth at an automotive assembly plant in the Southeast.
The weld booth project involved determining an exhaust rate that would ensure all contaminants, which were generated during the production welding process, would be contained inside the booth, while minimizing the amount of time for workers to safely enter the booth.
Many participants in the audience were also fabricators and installers, so Shearer discussed the thought processes and principles behind good industrial ventilation design. “Good communication among designers, fabricators, and installers results in the most effective and efficient installation,” Shearer noted.
With a good awareness of design constraints and outcomes, Shearer added, contractors will also be better prepared for the ever-changing regulatory environment. “New, aggressive standards mean you might be compliant one year and not the next, because the regulatory rules have changed,” he explained.
Shearer also noted that automotive manufacturing now involves processes that can emit a variety of different contaminants. Combustible dust, contaminated materials, and precious metals are also involved in industrial applications, so ventilation systems need to be precisely designed, fabricated, and installed.
Shearer recommended that contractors focus their investments on a well-designed ventilation system instead of a less efficient system that may often require larger duct and bigger fans, and that could foster additional misdirected expenditures.
“The industrial forum is always a good way to sit back and objectively look at the material presented, then compare and contrast to the many projects our own company has secured and completed,” Graves reflected.
“As a second-generation SMACNA contractor in the process of 'retooling' our own corporate sales structure and philosophy, it’s rewarding to see a young project manager grasp the understanding that our business solutions need to go beyond fabricating and installing ductwork,” he said.